Legend of the Blademaster

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Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:48 pm

Prologue

Echryn Rogue, a grizzled old swordsman from the south, shivered and pulled his cloak tighter about himself as a stiff autumn breeze sent a chill down his spine. The seasons were turning and winter would soon be settling upon the land. He had not intended on being this far north in the cold but he went wherever his ceaseless wandering took him and generally it tended to take him someplace warm. This time, though, it took him to a small village nestled beneath the towering foothills of the Northern Mountain Range. It was a quaint little village, little more than a hamlet really, but it had that awkward sort of charm that places like these usually have.

It's people were generally nice and greeted him warmly as he passed by. Echryn returned their welcome with a nod and continued on his way. His companion, a gray-haired wolf he lovingly referred to as Cassie, traveled by his side and the man couldn't help but notice that she drew more than a few stares. Such a dangerous animal walking freely amongst them would no doubt cause a stir, but Echryn had dealt with this before. Once the initial shock wears off people hardly seem to notice.

"First order of business," he announced to no one in particular, "It's been almost a month since the last time I seen a tankard of ale. Let's find some place where I can sit and wet my whistle."

The wolf looked up at him then let out a low growl. Echryn smiled and shook his head.

"Aw, don't be like that. Drinkin' is a healthy sport, maybe I'll let you try it."

The man laughed lightly to himself at the thought and deliberately led the wolf down the street to the local inn. From the outside it was a fairly decent establishment though the front door was in terrible need of a spot of oil. The hinges of the door protested loudly as he pushed his way through it effectively announcing his presence to everyone in the room. The various patrons glanced up from their tankards to scrutinize him and seeing nothing out of the ordinary returned to sipping at their drinks.

Echryn found a nice quiet table in the corner of the room and pulled up a chair. Cassie trotted up beside him and plopped down onto the floor at his feet, resting her head on her front paw. A moment or two later a portly man with a bushy mustache came over to him. He had an annoyingly jolly demeanor that grated on Echryn's nerves, but he let it pass.

"Pleasure to have ya this evenin', m'lord," the man greeted him, "Me name is Bartlebury and I own this here establishment. Is there anythin' I can get ya?"

Echryn dropped a few silver coins onto the table with a great flourish. "Bring me some of your finest ale," he said, "and put it in a really big cup."

"Certainly," the man replied with a hearty laugh as he scooped up the coins. He started to step away when his foot brushed up against the sleeping wolf on the floor. The animal growled a bit but didn't make any sudden moves, still though the sight of a wolf startled the poor man.

"Uh, m'lord... Is that your beastie there?"

"In a manner of speaking," Echryn replied off-handedly, "If you're worried about her I wouldn't bother. She's no harm to anyone."

Bartlebury remained unconvinced and continued to stare at the wolf with a wary eye. "Sir, might I ask if the beastie stay outside? Some of my customers are a might jumpy if ye get my meanin'."

"Would be better if she stayed with me, I think. She's a bit picky about the company she keeps, I'd hate for anyone to accidentally get hurt."

By now some of the other patrons were watching the scene unfold and Echryn kept an eye on them as well as the man in front of him. With a sigh he slipped a gold crown from his pocket and handed it to Bartlebury. "Would this relieve you of some of your fears?"

Burtlebury eyed the coin hungrily and eagerly took it from him. "Aye, m'lord, that it might. Now let me get that drink."

The innkeeper spun about and hurried off to the bar to pour the ale for Echryn and after he had left the swordsman looked reprovingly at his wolf. "You know, keeping you around is costing me a fortune."

The wolf looked up at him then shifted her head to her other paw and promptly fell back to sleep. Echryn just stared at her helplessly for a moment then quietly settled back in his chair to wait for his drink...
Last edited by Pryde on Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:02 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:02 pm

A meager gust of wind, pushing its way through the forest like a child through a throng, tousled the young man's dark brown hair as he stood more still than the swaying trees around him. His life under his father's tutelage had lent itself well to training his vision, and his keen eyes waited patiently for signs of movement in the woods. When he had been young, he would scan the scenery, trying to pick out a target; his father had grown him out of that pretty quickly. "Every critter in these woods is born and raised to blend in - ye ain't gonna find a one looking for 'em. But if ye stop and ye wait, then you'll blend in, and the critter ye want is gonna show itself to ye," the old man would say. So the young man stopped, and he waited.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about the youth. He was tall, broad, and lean, making him well suited to his daily tasks, but he had no other defining characteristics to speak of; he was, as far as anyone could tell, average. If he stood out, it was because, though headstrong and virulent, he did not abuse his abilities as others did; he chose to oppose villainy rather than succumb to it. It was a detail that other inhabitants of his rustic community had taken offense at throughout his life.

A slow, deliberative movement caught his eye. He allowed himself to focus on it, but he did not budge from his place. A doe was approaching the stream below him. He wondered briefly why it had no fawns with it, or a buck; but the cold winters of the last few years had been forcing wolves further down from the mountainous peaks above for food, so as autumn came in full and winter approached, there was little point in wondering. The doe inched toward the stream, ever careful, ever watchful. When it had its back to the youth, he began to move. He was slow, methodical in each step; that was something else his father had taught him. The slightest disruption could alert the target to his presence - and so he made sure that there were no disruptions.

As he crossed a beam of sunlight, one of its sparkling rays glinted off of his eyes, like a forest in their own right: a core of brown around his pupils shifted into a variegated green at the edges of his irises. He kept watch on the doe, making sure that it did not detect his presence. His hand gripped a little more tightly to the staff at his side. The staff was almost a quarter his height again, made of strong, hard ash. He had several more like it at his father's house, where he still lived. It was his weapon of choice, possibly because he saw himself in it: strong and capable of a killing blow, it was equally able to show mercy to a defeated enemy, but there was nothing spectacular about it. Even if his mother had long ago told him that he would become powerful and well-known throughout the lands, he rather liked the idea of being average. Besides, his mother had not been renowned for the stability of her mind - though he had dearly loved her while she still lived.

A leaf crackled underfoot. The youth froze. The doe lifted its head from the cool streamwater to look around for its perceived foe. The youth was not sure whether it could see him or not; it seemed more interested in quenching its thirst than escaping a potential enemy. That worried him; game was becoming increasingly difficult to find as it was, and if this doe had been so hard-pressed that it would rather risk death than abandon a water source, then things were looking dire indeed for the trade he and his father pursued.

The doe returned to its drink; the youth returned to his advance. But he had barely made it five paces when he heard another crack to his right; for a moment, he worried that it was his companion, unaware of the quarry she was about to frighten away, but as he glanced toward the source, his worries became more dangerous. A wolf, more skinny than lean, advanced slowly, drooling hungrily.

The doe saw the beast.

And the beast saw that she saw.

She tried to make a break for freedom by crossing the stream, but the wolf was swifter in its voracity. It was the work of a moment for the agile predator to rend flesh from the doe's hind, catching one of her legs in its heavy jaws. The beast, hungry enough to brave the water, dragged the writhing deer back to shore.

Angry at the loss of his quarry, the youth advanced a pace. The wolf ceased its preparations to feed and looked intently at him. The two glared at each other for a few long moments, the tension rising between them as if the wolf had some knowledge of the debate within its counterpart. At long last, the young man sighed, "Fine; keep her." Taking a higher grip on his staff, he turned away from what would soon be a grisly scene.

He found two more wolves watching him hungrily. He berated himself for allowing them to approach without his notice. He supposed that the two newcomers either wanted him out of the path to the doe, or they were hungry enough for a two-course meal. As they began to circle him, he glanced back at the first wolf to find that it had joined in nature's dance of death. They meant to feed twice on this most auspicious of days.

He decided that there was nothing else for it. Shifting the grip on his staff again, he dropped into a defensive stance; one of the wolves lunged, and he struck out, catching it in the side. It yowled and backed away to wait for another moment. A second wolf attacked, with much the same result. This stand-offish battle continued for several minutes as the youth tried to make his way downstream, away from the fresh kill; he hoped that the wolves would realize that they were losing precious time and prefer the dead meat to the live, especially if it looked like the live meat could get away.

The wolves did realize that time was running short. But they did not come to the conclusion he was hoping for. All three of them attacked at the same time. He struck out at the first. The blow sent it hurtling into the shallows with a yelp. The second reached his leg before he brought the end of the staff down on the base of its skull - hard. The vise of its jaw tore his pants leg and part of his flesh as the creature's head was forced to the dirt, but it landed with a sickening crunch and did not rise again.

The third wolf leapt upon him, taking him backward to the ground. He managed to place his staff between them. The beast locked it into its jaws, its razor-sharp teeth making small grooves in the ash wood as the two combatants wrestled back and forth time and again. The youth knew that, given time, the wolf would release its grip and try a different tactic, but he was not sure that he could hold out that long. He brought his knee up into the wolf's ribcage, eliciting a whine from the beast's bloodied mouth. The wolf's front claws were tearing away at his tunic and chest as it used its back paws to push off the earth and place more pressure on him. He began to worry that he did not have much left.

Fffffft!

The wolf yowled in pain. The whining turned to a whimper as its writhing stopped. The young man pushed the carcass off of his chest and sat up slowly. Looking slightly upstream, he saw that the wolf he had knocked into the water lay pinned to the bank by a second arrow. Standing with a grunt and turning, Aidan Conall eyed his best friend in the world as she stood on an overhang on the opposite bank, looking triumphant. "Nice shot, Inara," he complimented her, his voice a little broken as he tried to catch his breath.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:51 am

The young woman shouldered her long bow and raised a gloved hand in friendly salute. Her clear voice carried easily across the distance. “Always happy to save your hide, Aidan. Be with you in a moment to help with those beasties.” She stood from her perch, long red hair catching in the sun so that for a moment the teenager resembled a brightly-flaming candle. Then Inara was gone from the ledge, jogging back the way she came to cross back over the stream to where her childhood companion was still drawing in ragged, panting breaths.

She moved efficiently over the terrain, her soft but sturdy leather boots quiet as she clambered over rocks and hardpan dirt. Though Inara had a profile that belonged on a cameo and a grace that was born to move across a ballroom floor, the free-spirited teenager had her hair pulled back with a plain leather headband that matched the serviceable summer-weight cloak cinched around her slim waist with a heavy belt, a linen shirt of gray wool and leather hunting breeches tucked into those soft, calfskin boots. A full quiver of expertly hand-fletched arrows lay across her back at a diagonal angle to be drawn and fitted to her bowstring in less time than it took a heart to beat.

Her lake-blue eyes darkened to cobalt with concern as she neared Aidan. His shirt was shredded and blood was seeping sluggishly through the tears. Inara inwardly winced and cursed herself that her cloth-yard arrows hadn’t been faster. It had seemed an eternity before she’d been able to draw a clean bead on the attacking wolf, costing precious seconds in which Aiden had to fight and be wounded. It didn’t matter that he was her senior in everything, including age. When they were out in the wilds, Aiden and Inara were a seamless unit and equally responsible for the other.

As she trotted down the bank, she checked each corpse to make sure the animals were well and truly dead.

“Even with the wolf skins we’ll bring home, your father is not going to be pleased,” she commented, casually reaching for the hip satchel that held her healer’s supplies. “How bad did it get you?”
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:15 pm

"Is he ever?" Aidan rejoined with a smirk. His father was not an unpleasant man, but he was a hard man; Aidan did not begrudge him that, because the ailing man had led a hard life. But they had always been a team, even longer than he and Inara had been a team. "But between the deer upstream and the wolf pelts, we should have enough to eat and sell for the next few days."

He watched Inara approaching him, concern in her eyes, and he fondly thought back on their long friendship. They had always taken care of each other, not only on nearly every hunt they had ever made, but in the face of bullying in town, too. Then his eye caught her reaching for her healer's satchel, and he backed away a pace. "Don't worry about that, it's just a couple scratches," he said, eyeing the small bag. "Really, I'm fine." As he tried to take another step, the pain in his leg got to him; instead of merely limping, his knee buckled. He looke down and realized that he had lost more flesh from that leg than he had realized. He fell into a crouch, but with one hand on his staff, he pushed off the ground again with the other. He saw the incredulity in her expression. "Seriously!" he appended, "Fine!"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:45 am

Inara merely arched an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Dear spirits, Aidan… I’m not going to amputate anything. Now sit down before you fall on that pretty face of yours.” When he still hesitated, she rolled her eyes heavenward and when close enough, kicked the bottom of his staff out from under him. As Aiden stumbled, Inara had her bow unshouldered and used it as a hook to knock him off his good leg.

With cool aplomb, she drew out some bandages and a cleansing serum. “Be a friend and roll up that pant leg then we’ll see about those claw marks on your chest.”

Aidan gave a childlike grimace as he rolled up his pants leg. "You never could take 'no' for an answer, could you?" he joked as she began to clean the tear on his leg. He suppressed the urge to wince as the cleaning fluid entered the wounds and burned slightly.

He watched her for a few moments until a fiendish grin danced across his lips. "You really think my face is pretty?" he asked her, leaning toward the stream as if to catch sight of his reflection. He pawed at his own cheeks, pushing them up and down to see how it changed his appearance. "I never really thought of myself as pretty."

Biting down on the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing, she wrapped the bandage around Aiden’s leg and gave knotted it sharp enough to have the older boy’s eyes crossing. “Keep up with that preening and I’ll be honor-bound to make sure ‘pretty’ will be the last thing people think of when they look at you.”

Satisfied that his leg wounds were treated enough to last until they could get back to town, Inara scooted forward to work on the next set of injuries. She motioned with the hand holding the potion for him to peel off his ruined shirt.

With a playful frown on his face, Aidan tenderly removed the shredded shirt. He was well-built and well-muscled from years hunting and working without the kind of money it took to get fat and lazy - but it was something Aidan never really thought about, not around Inara. She was his best friend, and aside from a few jests from his father, he never considered her otherwise. Besides, he assumed she would be more interested in his injuries than his physique. The cuts were long, but shallower than the injury to his leg. Unable to help himself, he actually did wince this time as Inara applied the cleansing fluid to his chest. "You know," he commented dryly, "it seems like healing balms and fluids and suchlike would be naturally designed to decrease pain."

“It’s designed to give you a helpful reminder not to get yourself torn to pieces again,” she responded dryly, not bothering to look up from her work. By now, Inara’s hands were smeared red up to her forearms, the cuffs of her sleeves stained with Aidan’s blood. She didn’t have enough bandages to wrap his torso and decided to sacrifice the already ripped shirt. Unsheathing a plain but lethally sharp hunting knife, Inara began cutting the material in neat strips.

She bantered and teased with her usual dry sense of humor, but inside Inara ached. She prayed to the spirits that the medicines were enough to stave off the threat of infection. The wolves hadn’t looked rabid or diseased but Inara wouldn’t take the risk. As soon as they were back in town, she would pull out the more potent herbs and elixirs. And if Aidan fussed, which she was certain he would, Inara would simply truss the lad to a chair until she was satisfied he wouldn’t be susceptible.

“Sometimes I think I must be touched in the head to keep company with you.” With the potions back set aside, she began wrapping the bandages around Aidan’s ribcage. Her arms came around him and she had to almost sit straddling his waist in the most intimate of embraces to the casual observer. Certainly there were those in town who would have been shocked at the sight – her parents foremost among them – but it never crossed Inara’s mind. They had been in each other’s pockets for too long, had been tangled together in wrestling matches since they were sturdy-legged toddlers.

Soon it was done and Inara tied off the last bandage with considerably more gentleness than she showed on his leg. Her hands were too messy to give Aidan a pat on the cheek so she instead gave him a noisy kiss on the forehead. “That should last you until we get home. Ready to start field-dressing these beasties?”

Aidan smirked. "I've been ready since you shot 'em," he pointed out, "You're the one that wanted to do all this other stuff." He pushed himself to his feet, leaning on his staff, and he started back upstream toward the deer's corpse. "You take care of these wolves," he said, pausing to prod one with his staff, "I'll get the doe."

Even limping, it did not take Aidan long to reach the deer again. Moving as quickly as his wounds allowed, he went through the long and, in his condition, arduous process of skinning and field-dressing the doe to help prevent it from spoiling. It was messy work, cutting with his father's hunting knife in one hand and dressing the meat with his other hand, but he had never been put off by messy work. He could not remember a time when he was disgusted by blood and guts, but if he had been, he would not have been so for very long - interacting with such was intrinsic to the hunter's life.

He withdrew a well-treated and well-used leather mat from his back with ropes attached to it; laying it on the ground, he lowered the doe's body onto it and then took up the leads. Holding them over his shoulder with one hand, he leaned on his staff with the other, limping back downstream to Inara. "How's it coming?" he asked her when he was close enough that he did not have to raise his voice.

Aidan smirked. "I've been ready since you shot 'em," he pointed out, "You're the one that wanted to do all this other stuff." He pushed himself to his feet, leaning on his staff, and he started back upstream toward the deer's corpse. "You take care of these wolves," he said, pausing to prod one with his staff, "I'll get the doe."

Even limping, it did not take Aidan long to reach the deer again. Moving as quickly as his wounds allowed, he went through the long and, in his condition, arduous process of skinning and field-dressing the doe to help prevent it from spoiling. It was messy work, cutting with his father's hunting knife in one hand and dressing the meat with his other hand, but he had never been put off by messy work. He could not remember a time when he was disgusted by blood and guts, but if he had been, he would not have been so for very long - interacting with such was intrinsic to the hunter's life.

He withdrew a well-treated and well-used leather mat from his back with ropes attached to it; laying it on the ground, he lowered the doe's body onto it and then took up the leads. Holding them over his shoulder with one hand, he leaned on his staff with the other, limping back downstream to Inara. "How's it coming?" he asked her when he was close enough that he did not have to raise his voice.

Inara grimaced and gestured with the tip of her knife. “Just about to start skinning the third. There’s not enough real meat left to bother field-dressing, but I figure every little bit helps.”

Together, they finished the grisly but necessary tasks. By the time the pair was done, Inara was soaked to the elbows. She waited until their bounty was packed and ready before crossing over to the water to wash off the blood and slimy bits of wolf guts.

“So tell me what girl in the village you’ve pestered into acquiescing to be on your arm for the harvest dance?”

"I actually haven't decided yet," he answered with a straight face, "There are just so many options. There's Emil's girl, who I'm sure would be more than willing to drop him for me if I beg her enough - she wouldn't ask him to get his friends together and beat me to a pulp, certainly. Then there's Gless' girl - and honestly, who wouldn't abandon that farmer's epitome of muscle and sinew for the weird woodsman's son with the crazy old bat of a mother?"

He stopped himself when he heard what he was saying. Though his voice had been calm and collected, inside, he had been boiling, and the sarcasm had been but a tiny glimpse of that. He had always felt so alone in town; most folk had large families and saw no need to make friends among the rest of the townspeople, and everyone else saw no reason to associate with Aidan in particular. Occasionally, he felt like Inara was his only real friend - and the rest of the time, he was sure of that fact. "Nah," he continued, "I figure I'll just go alone and gossip with the old ladies about which couple's most like to get married first." He turned and glanced at Inara with a wry expression on his face. "Just like last year."

He paused for a few moments, but before she could reply, he asked her, "What about you? You or your parents have any suitors on the line?"

His companion made a sound of distaste as she stood from the water’s edge, her clean hands and arms gleaming wetly in the afternoon sun. “My mother always has suitors on the line; I don’t expect this gathering to be any different.” Which meant that Inara would be spending most of the evening avoiding Diana Winterhart and whatever unfortunate lad she had recently corralled into being her daughter’s escort... “Since I turned 17 she’s been worse than usual and now even Papa is starting to make noises of agreement.”

Disgusted at the situation, she yanked down damp sleeves of her shirt and pulled her gloves back on.

“I wonder if Dirk didn’t have the right idea by going off on his travels. He always was the smarter of us siblings.” Her older brother had left the village last springtime on a sort of self-pilgrimage of discovery. Inara sometimes wondered if he had felt just as stifled by Grayville as she herself did. At least he, as the older child and a male, pressed his advantage and left the small hamlet in search of adventure and experience.

It was only Aidan and the wilds that kept Inara from bucking her parents’ rules and running off to follow in Dirk’s footsteps.

“You’d think after I had Rob running back home with his proverbial tail ‘twixt his legs, no boy in the village would be caught by mother’s wiles. But I doubt I’ll fare so lucky.”

Aidan laughed, though he had not meant to. "Of course not, Inara," he rejoined, "Would you look at yourself? I don't think that it'd scare off the boys even if you beat the stuffing out of the Mayor O'Keefe." He grinned and jested, "Not that you couldn't, mind you, just that I don't think it'd do you any good in this department." The good mayor of Grayville, ever loyal to the king of Aloria, was probably the toughest man in the entire town. Some said he was only such by backstabbing his way to his position, but most agreed that there was no man of sterner stuff - nor any more reasonable and responsible - in Grayville either before or during his time in the office. He also happened to be a baron, but he never demanded that any call him by that title.

He asked her, "I don't suppose you've ever considered following Dirk, have you? I mean, it would certainly save you from having to suffer any more of your doting suitors." He knew she had considered leaving, and he knew she had chosen not to, but he really wanted to hear her explain why. Besides, he enjoyed commenting on the refined life her parents wanted for her but she seemed to revile.

When he’d asked her to look, Inara glanced down at her cloak, splattered with gore, and refrained from commenting. With her chin thrust up in defiance, she packed up the rest of her belongings and settled the quiver of arrows comfortably across her back again.

The mention of Deek gave her pause. It startled her a little how hers and Aidan’s thought patterns often ran down parallel paths. Then she shrugged, fingers toying with the taught string of her longbow. “I suppose it would just be trading one set of troubles for another. Besides, if something happens to Papa then Grayville wouldn’t have any sort of healer.” It was a bone of contention often tossed around the Winterhart dinner table. Sometimes it made her angry toward Dirk, but most times it just made her exhausted.

She forced a bright inflection to her voice as she lifted one side of the game-carrier. “Besides, my life isn’t all dirges and shrouds. There’s a lot here that I couldn’t bear to leave behind and go wandering off to hunt for my supper and fight off brigands down every travel road.”

As they began to walk back toward town, tugging the laden game-carrier behind them, Aidan challenged her, "Oh, really? Name something - any reason at all for you to stay in dreary old Grayville... that doesn't involve your father's responsibilities. A real reason for you wanting to stay here.”

Inara turned her eyes to her friend and gave him a long, bland stare. “Widow Mabel’s berry turnovers.”

"Ooh," Aidan interjected, realizing that he had not considered that, "You're right. That's a fabulous reason to stay." Such delicious turnovers, they were. "Still," he continued after a few moments with a mock-pensive expression, "you could ask her to pack a few for your travels, or you could get the recipe and promise to think of her every time you make them."

Sighing in exasperation, Inara readjusted her grip on the carrier. “I prefer not poison myself, thank you.” It wasn’t a secret in the village that Inara’s culinary skills included things like burning water and peeling eggs. “Honestly,” she teased as they worked their way back toward Aidan’s home, “If I didn’t know better I would think you’re trying to get rid of me. You in the market for a new best friend?”
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:50 am

While still maintaining his grip on both staff and leads, Aidan opened his hands defensively. "No, no, it's not that. I'm just askin'." He was silent then, walking with a little smirk on his face. He always enjoyed the banter between them; even when he was depressed or angry, joking with Inara could bring a smile to his face.

They walked for a few minutes in silence, just focusing on the task before them. Soon, though, Aidan had cause to speak again - when he saw one of Inara's persistent suitors, Charr Twoblades, approaching. "What could he want?" he asked his friend softly.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:39 pm

Inara shook her head. Her good mood had evaporated as soon her gaze lit upon the tall youth. He had arms like tree-trunks, thick hair as dark as a panther’s pelt, a face chiseled as if from granite, and a head full of rocks with a temper as easily ignited as dried summer grass. Inara didn’t know what the boy wanted – after all, they were more than three summers apart in age and she wasn’t particularly well-connected in town – but that didn’t seem to dissuade Charr that they would make a fine match. And what Charr wanted, he made sure he got it.

The blacksmith’s son stopped and leaned against the trunk of an elderpine, thick arms folded across a wide chest, booted feet crossed casually at the ankles. “Afternoon, my lady,” he spoke in a deep tenor as they drew near. Charr purposely ignored Aidan, kept his brandy brown eyes focused on Inara. He throttled back a frown at her unkempt appearance and the fact that she was back to wearing breeches again. Charr had very definite ideas of a woman’s place in life and it wasn’t frolicking about the forest doing things best left to men. But all in good time…

“Hello Charr,” she replied cooly, blue eyes frosting over. He ignored the look as he ignored Aidan.

“Just been to see your father,” he continued. “Da got himself burned at the forge today and needed some salve. Imagine my disappointment that you weren’t in the shop when I came by.”

Inara lifted her chin. “Charr, you don’t want to know what I’m imagining right now.” He just laughed indulgently and shook his head.

“Spirited as always, Inara. At any rate, I heard from your father that you didn’t have an escort to the Festival tonight.” He pushed away from the tree, crossed the stingy distance separating the two of them. “I know you’ve been waiting for me to ask you…”

“I have not,” she interrupted but Charr rolled right over the protest.

“…So I told your parents I would be by the cottage around sunset.”

Inara sputtered as images of murder flashed brightly behind her eyes. The arrogant swine! The pompous, toffee-headed…

“No need to come to the cottage. I’m not going with you.”

Charr grinned. “Of course you are. Who else would you go with?”

“None of your concern,” she fired back as the frost of her eyes melted into methane flames.

“It is my concern, Inara. You know it’s only a matter of time before the betrothal is official.”

Without consciously aware of what she was doing, Inara lowered her hand to the hunting dagger sheathed at her waist. “There is no betrothal, Charr, and there never will be. Now let us pass.”
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:57 pm

If Charr saw Inara's hand glide toward her dagger, he gave no testament to the fact. But Aidan saw it, and he was not about to let his best friend do something she could regret for the rest of her life because of a trivial encounter like this. He dropped the leads and gripped his staff with both hands, stepping between them without a single sign of the limp, leading the way with his staff. He intentionally batted Inara's weapon hand with it lightly. Aidan was a mite shorter than Charr, but he was almost as broad. "If you want to go to the harvest dance," he said, calmly but with a dangerous undertone, "you'll want to look your best. I hear that a broken nose can be mighty destructive to a handsome man's profile."

Charr glared down at Aidan, focusing on him for the first time. "You wouldn't dare, you snot-nosed whelp. You even try it, I'll put your face in the ground so hard you'll be spittin' up dirt for months."

Aidan narrowed his eyes. "I took down three wolves not twenty minutes back. You think an unarmed smithy's brat scares me?"

Charr sneered at him. "After those wolves tore you to shreds, I doubt you could fight off a flea," he rejoined.

Aidan glanced at himself. His wounds were still bleeding through the makeshift bandages Inara had supplied. "You mean these little scratches?" he asked incredulously, "These don't bother me one bit." To prove his point, he placed his full weight on his injured leg and did not even bat an eye. He glared menacingly up at Charr, who seemed intent on the fresh gush of blood filling Aidan's leg bandage.

Charr looked up at him. "You're bluffing," he said.

Aidan thought he heard a hint of uncertainty in the other's voice, caught a glimpse of it in his eyes. "Care to find out?"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sat Apr 25, 2009 8:26 pm

“Oh knock it off, both of you!” Inara stepped between Charr and Aidan, slapped her palms against their respective chests and gave a forceful shove. “If you want to beat each other senseless, be my guest. But do me a favor and bloody your knuckles after this carrier is delivered.” Disgusted and angry in equal measures, she picked up her half of the litter. “Charr, you’ve asked my favor and I’ve rejected it. Find someone else to hang on your arm, I will play no part.”

“You can’t be serious,” the black-haired youth protested between gritted teeth. “Do you have any idea what you’re throwing away on account of this...” he pointed at Aidan. “This ignorant nobody?”

Though a head shorter than herself, Inara looked down her nose at Charr. “I throw away nothing because you offer me nothing. Now for the last time… Let. Us. Pass.”

Fingers clenching, a neck vein throbbing, Charr swung his glance between the two friends. He was spoiling for a fight, could almost taste the thrill of beating his fists into the woodsman’s son until he was nothing more than a red stain on the ground.

But there was a time and place for everything. Charr would bide his time, choose his place. And he would win.

“This isn’t over, Inara.” Spitting into the dirt in front of Aidan’s feet, Charr spun on his heel and stalked off towards the village to lick his wounded pride. Inara waited until he was out of sight before she turned toward Aidan. The blue fire was still in her eyes, colored her cheeks. She took a menacing step toward him, her hand twitching at her knife again.

“Care to explain to me what that was all about?”
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:12 pm

Aidan grimaced and his knees buckled. He leaned heavily on the staff, which creaked and bent under his full weight. One hand was clutched against his chest where Inara had shoved him moments earlier. As he took long, deep breaths, he was finally able to stand again as tears sprang unbidden to his eyes. When at last he felt he had recovered, he looked at Inara. If he was surprised or put off by her menace, he did not show it. He even managed a faint smile as he explained himself. "He would have hit you, Inara," he said, "A little more defiance from you - if you had drawn your knife, for example - it was all he would have needed. He would have called it 'putting you in your place'. And whether he did that or not, I was a little bit afraid that you were going to gut him where he stood."

He closed his eyes and swayed again as another wave of pain hit him. "Either way, I couldn't let it happen. If he beat me, he'd be satisfied and he'd leave you alone... and if my bluff scared him off for the time-being, all the better." He paused again, then continued, "And if this means I've earned his immortal ire, so be it. Small price to pay..." He trailed off and his eyes rolled a bit. "For now," he said after a few moments, "I think we need to get this back to town so I can... take a nap."

He knelt and took up his leads again, then glanced at Inara under droopy eyelids and nodded his head toward town inquisitively.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sun Apr 26, 2009 8:29 pm

She wanted to stay mad at him and really gave it a good try. Her anger held out stubbornly for only a few heartbeats longer before it dissolved. Reaching out, Inara laid her palm gently against Aidan’s cheek. “Thanks.” Then she hefted her side of the litter again and the pair continued their trek home.

"I know you don't want to," the young woman said just before they reached the cottage. "But after we take care of the game, my father should come and see to your wounds." Especially after your display she added silently. "My field kit can only do so much and I'd never forgive myself if infection or something else set in tonight."
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Mon Apr 27, 2009 1:27 pm

Echryn sat in a half doze on the porch outside of the Rusty Bucket inn. He had a pipe clenched tightly between his teeth and was idly puffing at it while he stared intently at his boots. His faithful companion was present at his side though asleep as usual. With one hand he gently stroked her fur while the other jingled what was left of the money he had taken with him. It had been six long years since he left his home in Trabinia, six years since his beloved wife was killed. He came all the way out here to try and bury the past but in truth the past was threatening to bury him. He barely even recognized himself anymore on the off chance he happened to catch his reflection on the surface of a still pond.

With a sigh he pocketed the few coins he had left and shifted his weight a bit in an attempt to get more comfortable. His sword hilt caught under him and he made a slight sound as the hand that had been stroking Cassie quickly moved to grab it. Cassie looked up at him then caught a whiff of something in the air. She let out a low growl which drew Echryn's attention and when he looked up he caught sight of two youths dragging behind them a small litter loaded with animal skins and remains.

"You probably should look away," he said to the wolf before giving two quick puffs on his pipe. He easily recognized the fur coats the youths had piled on their litter. They had gone hunting for deer and clearly ran afoul of some wolves. The boy, it seemed, was lucky to have made it out with the wounds he had.

He glanced over at Cassie who while still looking in their direction had stopped growling and focused intently on the boy. "You're not planning on killing him, are you," he asked pointedly.

The wolf replied with a slight whimper than laid her head down on her front paws and closed her eyes. Echryn watched her for a moment than laboriously pulled himself to his feet. "I think I'm going to go hit the hay, you coming?"

He held the door open for the wolf but the animal made no motion to follow. Echryn just shrugged, "Suit yourself, just try not to maim anybody."

He closed the door behind him and headed to his room. Cassie knew which one was his so if she wanted in she could scratch at the window set low in the wall by the bed. He wasn't at all worried about the wolf actually hurting anyone, in all the long years he'd known her he only saw her maim somebody once and in that case the man deserved it. With a contented sigh he lowered himself onto the rough mattress in his room and fell happily asleep.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sat May 09, 2009 10:40 am

The two hunters made their way through town, and back out a short ways to the lodge where Aidan lived with his father. The grey-haired man, aging and ailing, nevertheless came out to help put the game away. He frowned at the lack of good meat, an expression that Aidan caught sight of, but his father said nothing. Aidan knew that it was not because his father avoided expressing his disappointment in words, but rather because Inara was present, and the old man was not out to embarrass his son - to embarrass his son would be to embarrass the family name, and he could not have that.

It did not take long to complete the steady routine of preparing and storing the game. When they were finished, Inara bade her farewells with the promise of a speedy return with her father, to finish taking care of Aidan's wounds. Aidan and his father trudged into the lodge. "Come on, boy," his father said, "come set down for a spell and take a breather."

"Yes, Pa," Aidan said. Aidan had always called his father "Pa", ever since he could speak. He had heard the other nicknames children had given their fathers, but Aidan liked Pa; it was short, it was succinct, and it expressed endearment as well as relation. His father, on the other hand, always seemed to call him "boy" - if he ever used his son's name, it was for a serious discussion.

"That's a fine girl, Aidan," his father said as the two settled into some chairs in the living area, just inside the lodge.

"Yes, Pa," Aidan replied.

"It was good she was with you today. Three wolves is too much to take on alone."

"Yes, Pa."

"It's a shame they got to the doe first. Ruined a good piece of meat. We won't have as much to sell now."

"Yes, Pa."

His father sighed. "You should have gotten more." Aidan did not reply this time, so his father continued, "There's more out there. You just have to look harder - track better - hunt more fiercely. We need money, boy, and one doe's meat and three wolf pelts are not going to be enough for everything we need."

Aidan looked at his father, a hint of rebellion glinting in his eye. "What do we need, Pa?"

His father's own eyes glinted, not with rebellion, but with severity. "We need new garments, new skinning knives, more rope for the traps, tools to repair the roof of the lodge, and you need a better weapon - like a blade."

"I like the staff," said Aidan softly.

"I don't care what you like," his father returned, "The staff is insufficient, as today's events proved. You can't catch, much less kill any deer with it. You either need a bow or a blade to hunt properly."

Aidan's visage became downcast. "Yes, Pa."

"And then there's your wedding to consider."

Aidan closed his eyes and shook his head. "I'm not marrying anyone, Pa," he said, "We've been over this."

His father was not in any mood for back-talk. His voice turned low. "There aren't any options for you here, Aidan. It's either her or Inara, and Inara's parents would never allow her to marry you, even if she wanted to - much less pay the dowry. Besides, you said yourself that you wouldn't marry Inara. And that leaves only Emera."

"The Kalles live in the plains, Pa! The plains! I don't know the first thing about farming, and I don't much care to learn. There's no room for her here, and her family is too wealthy to let her live in a run-down old lodge like this!" Aidan had a fire in his eye and in his voice; he was adamant.

His father's eye twitched. "She wants to travel, boy, and her parents want her to be safe while she does. After you two met at your mother's funeral, she took a real shine to you. You can keep her safe out there, and where you can't hunt, her dowry will cover your expenses. You would be out of this rotten hole in the earth and she would be happy and taken care of. It's a fine arrangement, boy, and you know it." An angry sneer began to contort even further the old man's wrinkling face. "It's not that you don't think the marriage is a good idea, because you know it is. It's not that you think you can't take care of her, because you know you can. And it's not that she's repulsive, because you and I both know she's the prized maiden for her town..." He paused, making sure to emphasize his next point, "...just like Inara is here."

Aidan shot his father a glare. "That's not what this is about."

"Isn't it?" his father demanded, "You care for her and you always have!"

"We're just friends, Pa!" Aidan shouted as he leapt to his feet, ignoring the pain in his leg. "But I'm not about to abandon her here, where she'll be forced into a marriage with some snob who won't treat her right! Without me here, she'll never get to hunt again, and she'll never be happy! You stick by your friends, Pa! You taught me that - and you of all people should know what that means!"

His father was on his feet now. They glared at each other for several long moments until at last, the elder man said softly, "Well, maybe it's time to let go of all that."

Aidan shook his head. "She's my friend, Pa, and I'm not going to abandon her for the sake of someone I barely know," he said, "And Mother would agree with me."

"Your mother--" his father began, but the sentence disappeared as he doubled over into a coughing fit. Aidan forgot his anger and knelt by his father, who fell back into his seat, coughing harshly into his hands. The old man was dying, and there was nothing Aidan could do about it; Peter Winterhart, Inara's father, had told them that he would probably only have a few more years, if that - and stress would only accelerate the process. And Aidan's father was nothing if he was not stressed.

At long last, the coughs subsided, and the old man said softly, "I just want to live long enough to see that my name will be carried on. I don't want the Conall name to die with me."

Even looking into his father's eyes, where tears were welling from the pain of his attack and grief at the memory of his beloved wife was clear, Aidan's own eyes narrowed. You mean with me, he was about to reply, when a tear made its way out of his father's eye and onto his cheek. Aidan's gaze softened; he settled his father back into his seat and moved to sit again in his own.

"Yes, Pa."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sun May 17, 2009 8:20 pm

Peter Winterhart frowned so that the deep creases of age and a lifetime of squinting against near-sightedness showed starkly against an otherwise smooth face. His skin was toughened and tan from spending as much time outdoors as inside his workshop. He had hands capable of smoothing tears away from a child’s cheeks or wielding a scalpel to incise flesh.

At the moment, one of those hands was linked tightly together with his daughter’s as she related the events of the afternoon. It was toss-up between which concerned him more – Aidan’s injuries or Charr’s domineering ways. “The boy is loonier than Old Jeck if he thinks I will grant him permission to court you, let alone marry you.”

“Papa, if he comes near me again I swear I’ll geld him.”

Peter chuckled, released his grip on Inara’s hand to sling his arm around her shoulders. “I’ve no doubt of it, darling. Still, I’m glad that Aidan was there. Strength in numbers, Inara. And I always felt that you two were safer together. Maybe it’s just a matter of keeping the mischief in one place.”

Inara smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder. “Love you, Papa.”

“Love you, too. Now let’s go patch up your partner in chaos.” They continued on the path together toward the Conall homestead. Even a stranger would be able to spot the familial resemblance. Though Inara’s hair was shades darker and lacked the gray sprinkled throughout, their eyes were the same identical shade of lake blue, their smiles crooked in the exact same shape.

Both had the long-legged stride that effortlessly ate up the ground. Both had minds sharper than a surgeon’s knife and an outlook on life that was slightly skewed but nonetheless full of humor.

But some of that light-hearted outlook dimmed a little as they stood on Aidan’s doorstep. Even before he answered their knock at the door, Inara and Peter could feel the tension hanging like icicles off the wooden eaves, rolling out like gray clouds of fog.

“Hi Aidan,” she smiled. “I brought the cavalry.”
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Thu May 21, 2009 11:51 pm

Echryn awoke with a start then turned to look out the window. He had expected to see Cassie there but was surprised when she wasn't. Outside the sun's light was failing, though there was still enough of it left to illuminate the sky. With a shrug he pulled off his covers and immediately pulled on some clothes. He turned to look out the window one last time before leaving the room. Just where is that blasted wolf?

Out on the front porch of the Rusty Bucket he found no signs of Cassie anywhere. Obviously, she had wandered off but where would she go? He headed down the street a bit and came to a stop just outside the blacksmith when a peculiar sight caught his eye. By the forge a cloaked and hooded figure stood talking to the blacksmith, he seemed to nod for a moment then gestured to the north with his hammer. The figure bowed its head in thanks and turned to leave. Echryn quickly ducked behind some crates as the figure passed by then warily poked out his head.

He couldn't quite tell through the cloak, but it seemed the person had a slender figure and it moved with almost an inhuman grace. He followed it out of town making sure to stay out of sight. The cloaked figure led him to a clearing just a bit north of Grayville and in the center of the clearing stood a lone cottage. Echryn kept to the trees, watching both the figure and the cottage when he noticed a young woman approach the house with a significantly older man. The boy from before answered the door and that's when he realized this must have been his home. But why would it come here?

He turned to look back towards the cloaked individual only to find that it was gone. The hell? Cautiously he crept over to the last place he'd seen it when suddenly something brushed up against his leg. His hand strayed instinctively to the hilt of his sword and he spun about ready to draw his weapon.

"Cassie," he said in startled surprise, "you nearly scared me half to death!"

The wolf just gave him a curious look and Echryn sighed in resignation. "Anyway, look," he continued, gesturing towards the boy's home. "It's the young hunter we saw earlier, this must be his home. I followed someone up here, but then I lost them in the trees over there. You wouldn't--," he started to say, then he paused and began shaking his head, "No, that's just silly. Come on, let's head back to town I'm starving."

He patted his thigh and the wolf obediently followed beside him as they made their way back to the village. Before the cottage was out of sight, however, he turned to look at it one last time, puzzling over its significance. Finally, with a grunt he turned and headed back down the road...

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Fri May 22, 2009 9:54 am

Aidan limped to the door and opened it with a smile. "Good evening, master Winterhart," he greeted Inara's father, shaking his hand.

As Aidan returned to his seat, his father staggered to his feet and put on a brave smile. "Evening, Peter," Conrey Conall said to his doctor and friend. "For once you're out here for a reason other than me."

[OOC: Sorry there's nothing to it, but I really couldn't think of anything else to post.]

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Fri May 29, 2009 9:39 pm

Peter gave a friendly smile even as his sharp gaze took in the subtle signs of Conrey's deterioration. The skin around his eyes tightened as he noted all signs of weariness and covered weakness. The next time he brewed up the tonics for Conrey the batch would have to be stronger. "Must say it's nice to have a change of pace, though I wish the circumstances didn't involve a wolf pack gnawing on our Aidan."

With Inara assisting, father and daughter set out the tools of their trade in ruthlessly neat rows, set in a system of reach and priority that only they seemed to understand. Peter kept up a lively conversation, a healer's talent that was as much a part of tending to a patient as poultices and potions. Within a few moments, Aidan was sitting in his chair, stripped down to only his trews so that Peter could easily inspect both the injuries and Inara's first aid. He'd been given a dose of poppies to help with the pain to come, as some of the gashes would need sewing.

Peter closely inspected the lacerations and punctures. "Well done, little one," he murmured in approval of Inara then began mixing together a combination of herbs. He sprinkled a pinch of dried leaves into mortar, a few tiny black seeds, tossed in a small amount of what might have been tree bark. All were ground into fine dust with a few neat twists of the pestel. "This will stave off any infection. I'll make enough for you to last through the next day or two." After pulling the flesh together with a needle and rows of little stitches that would make a master seamstress proud, he dusted Aidan's wounds with the powder and slathered on more of Inara's medicines. "You'll want to apply this twice a day, morning and night. Though it's highly unlikely, be sure to keep a sharp eye out for swelling, heat, redness... The usual signs that something is amiss."

He turned the boy over to Inara, trusting her skill to rebandage all the wounds with fresh, sterilized linen treated with another set of medicines to aid in healing and soothe the skin. While she did so, wrapping with studied care and a gentle hand that comforted every time fingertips touched touch, Peter popped the beeswax seal off of another bottle, poured a small amount of liquid into a wooden cup. "To keep the fever at bay," he said while holding out the cup to Aidan. "You'll want to drink two fingers of this at the same time you dust the wounds."

Healer Winterhart grimaced. "I'm afraid you won't be dancing much tonight, lad. But I promise you'll be right as spring rains in a few days so long as you take it easy and don't pull any of those stitches."

At the mention of the festival, Inara snuck a surreptitious glance at Aidan from beneath her lashes but said nothing as she packed up her father's tools.
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Fri May 29, 2009 11:46 pm

"Oh, that'll be alright, master Winterhart," Aidan replied after downing the bitter liquid. "Didn't much plan on dancing anyway," he commented offhandedly, while looking down at the bandages. He nodded his approval, as if he were in any position to approve, and then leaned back in his chair. "I imagine I'll still attend, though," he continued, glancing at Inara in turn, "It can be a fun night even when you're just sitting to the side, chatting up the old ladies of the village."

Aidan's father snorted a laugh, which brought a smile to the young man's face. Conrey added, "Don't let 'em pinch your cheeks this year, son - three years in a row now you've come home red as a beet after they got at you."

Aidan laughed aloud at that. As the moment died down, he pushed himself to his feet, testing how well his injured leg would hold his weight. Satisfied with its performance, he moved to shake Peter's hand. "Thank you again, master Winterhart. I'll try not to mess up your fine needlework," he said with a little smirk.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:00 am

After the sun had set the towns people began to migrate to the town square. Decorations were hung up everywhere and a stage had been constructed by the well in the center of town. On the stage a small band tuned up their instruments and the denizens of Grayville waited expectantly. Echryn stood near the back of the crowd leaning against the wall of the general store. When the music started playing and the people started dancing he did his best to look as inconspicuous as possible. At one point he heard a low growl emanating from the wolf lying at his feet. He glanced down at her and gave her a sour face.

"Hey, don't look at me! You're the one who wanted to come down here."

The wolf glanced up at him and growled again. Echryn just shook his head.

"Well, I ain't dancing if that's what you're expectin'. I haven't pranced around like that in years and I don't much like the idea of falling on my face, not to mention," he said, turning his eyes back to the crowd, "I've been drinking. I don't think I could even walk a straight line much less dance right now."

Cassie whimpered slightly then lowered her head. It was hard to tell from looking at her but Echryn could have sworn she was pouting. He purposefully crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. Her whining wasn't going to change his mind.

A moment or two passed in which Echryn had very nearly dozed off. He probably would have fell asleep standing up if Cassie hadn't shifted beside him. He glanced at the wolf and noticed that her fangs were bared and she was standing with her ears pointed forward and her heckles rising. What in the world has gotten into you?

"Oh, I'm sorry," a young woman said suddenly, startling Echryn a bit. He turned to look at her and was surprised by her youthful beauty, "I saw you standing over here and thought I'd recognized you. Please excuse me, I think the ale I've been drinking has clouded my vision."

"It's quite alright, Ms.," he replied assuringly as he held his hand out to her.

"Tibbits," she answered him before taking hold of his hand, "Mary Tibbits."

Echryn smiled, "A pleasure to meet you."

He lifted her hand to his lips but just before he could kiss it Cassie suddenly growled and barked at them, startling the young girl. She darted back a half step away from the wolf but Echryn kept a hold of her hand and wouldn't let her run.

"I am so sorry, Miss Tibbits, you'll have to excuse my wolf. She is a bit--overprotective of me. I assure you she's harmless," then he turned to give the wolf a piercing gaze, "Right, Cassie?"

The animal returned his gaze for a second or two before she turned and stalked away with her tail between her legs, growling to herself as if she were grumbling. Mary watched the wolf go with a mixture of relief and concern on her face.

"Is it alright to let her wander alone like that," she asked and Echryn smiled.

"She'll be fine," he said, leading her into the crowd towards the spot where a refreshments table had been set up. "Might I interest you in a drink?"

Mary shook her head, "Oh no, I really shouldn't. I've had too much already."

"Alright then," Echryn replied, trying a different approach, "How about I drink and you talk?"

The girl smiled warmly at him, "I'd like that."

After filling up a tankard of ale the two of them found a nice quiet place where they could sit and talk... Or rather where Echryn could sit while he listened to Mary talk. The girl was quite the chatty one, talking about village life, farming and things like that. She mentioned she was twenty five and still had no suitors yet which Echryn cared little for. Suitor or not it had been a long time since last he bedded a woman and he fully intended to bed this one... That is, as soon as she stopped yapping. Eventually the girl got thirsty again at which point Echryn offered her the rest of his ale. She gulped it down in one big swallow then decided it was time to dance though Echryn was rather opposed to the idea.

"Come on, it'll be fun," she pleaded with him still Echryn shook his head.

"I have a different idea," he said, "Instead of a dance how about a romp through the hay?"

"A romp through the wha--," she stopped when his meaning slowly dawned on her. "Why I never!" she cried then she smacked him smartly across the cheek before storming off.

Echryn watched her go, rubbing his cheek gently with one hand. Perhaps it had been awhile. He was, at one time, much better at reading a woman's mood. With a shrug he turned and headed towards the nearest keg. Another drink was just what he needed to dull the pain in his cheek...

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:10 pm

Aidan limped around the dance area, after limping to the town square, after limping his way into the same fancy get-up he had worn the previous year - with some cosmetic alterations to keep up with his growth, of course. At last, he found his way to the table that had been set up as a buffet. It was one of the finest spreads he had ever seen; the town of Grayville outdid their harvest banquets every year - not that that was saying much, but since Aidan had never been anywhere else, it was still fine in his eyes.

He made his way down the buffet line, picking out the best rolls and meats and fruits he saw; when an old lady on the other side of the table scowled at him, he grinned and dutifully added a few vegetables to his plate. The old woman - Mrs. Brier, a widow these last six years after over fifty years of marriage to a carpenter - smiled sweetly in return and followed him to the end of the table. She walked with a cane and a bit of a limp of her own, but once both of them got past the edge of the table, she offered him her cane. "I don't need it nearly so much as you, I reckon," she offered.

Aidan laughed a little and bowed slightly. "Thankee, marm," he rejoined, "Had a bit of a run-in with wolves earlier. You should see the other guy," he quipped with a wink.

Mrs. Brier laughed and patted Aidan's cheek. "You're a good kid, Aidan," she said aloud, then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially, "You should ask Inara to dance. She looks simply lovely tonight."

Aidan followed her gaze until he caught sight of his dear friend - and he had to agree with Mrs. Brier that Inara looked positively lovely. The young man could not help but smile as he watched her move gracefully through the crowd of dancers. After a moment, though, he broke his gaze and turned back to Mrs. Brier. "I can't," he said, "You saw my limp. There's no way I could dance tonight."

Mrs. Brier frowned and slapped Aidan's cheek lightly. "Nonsense!" she retorted, "You're a young whippersnapper, just like the rest of these uns! Get out there and cut a rug with that pretty girl!"

Aidan laughed and looked back at Inara as she made her way toward the buffet table. Maybe he would ask her to dance, as awkward as his dancing might be. They were friends, after all - it could be fun.

Suddenly, Aidan's vision seemed to slow. A flash of light caught him off-guard and sent him stumbling in a circle. When he regained his balance, he found that he was looking at Charr and one of his friends, the strapping quarry-owner's son named Emil. Aidan cowered a bit, unwilling to have the confrontation he had threatened Charr with earlier that day. But as he listened to their conversation, he realized that not all was as it seemed.

"Look at that rat," Emil spat, "Staring at your girl like she's his property." He gestured slightly with his hand; Aidan followed his gaze, past where he now stood, to where he had stood moments before. Aidan was now thoroughly confused - so much so that he missed the rest of Charr's conversation with Emil... or maybe it had just gone by too quickly to follow. He was unsure which.

Looking back at the duo, he saw Charr stalk away with a plate of food, muttering something about the right time and place. Emil was hefting an orange in one hand and sporting a sneer on his face. Aidan nearly dove aside when the burly boy hurled the orange with terrible force - when he realized that Emil was throwing it at him.

Aidan snapped back to reality and spun on his good leg. His arm was in front of his face by instinct more than mental command, and the orange's flight was brought to a smooth conclusion as Aidan caught it, moving with it to keep it from bursting on his hand. He heard Mrs. Brier gasp from behind him and several others recoil in surprise nearby. He looked at the orange for a few moments as he leaned on Mrs. Brier's cane. At last, he turned and looked at Emil; the other boy was fuming: Aidan almost thought he could see smoke coming out of his beet-red ears. The nearby dancers and other citizens of Grayville glared angrily at Emil until he stalked off after Charr, while Mrs. Brier checked on Aidan. "Are you alright, Aidan?" she asked, holding his face in her hands, turning it back and forth as if checking for injuries.

He laughed and tried to pull her hands away. "I'm fine, Mrs. Brier," he said, "Really." He looked up and saw Inara; he sported an expression that pleaded for rescue.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:44 pm

The Harvest Dance was one of the few times a year where Inara didn't protest being primped, poked, polished, prodded, and perfumed by her mother and the few girls in the village that she could call friends. The girls had their skin and hair scented with oils from Helen's stillroom, hands rubbed with lotion to make them softer than a lamb's ear. Sari Florin, Inara's closest female companion and as opposite to her as bird is to a fish, had twisted up her pretty blond hair and threaded the style with two strands of pale pink beads that had been her great aunt's. Around her neck was a ribbon dyed a darker pink to match the shade of her gown.

Inara thought she looked like one of those expensive dolls she'd seen once, with the blonde curls perfectly coiled and cupid's bow lips painted on porcelain features. The only difference between Sari and and the doll were the eye colors. Sari's were a warm brown that turned to gold whenever she laughed, which was often.

It was Inara that had a shade of eye similar to the doll's. But there the comparisons ended. There were very few, if any people in the village that would equate anything of Inara's appearance or countenance to "doll-like". But for tonight at least, the lines could be blurred just a little.

Inara's hair had been left unbound to cascade in waves to her middle back. Rather than ornament her hair with beads or clips, she had simply woven in a few tiny snowdrop blossoms. A simple tear-drop pendant of clear crystal lay nestled in the hollow of her throat, suspended by a cord of green velvet. And it was a gown of forest-green velvet that Inara wore tonight. Short-sleeved and floor-length with a flowing skirt that swirled about her ankles everytime she twirled across the dance floor, she - or rather Sari - had finished off her outfit by tying a sash of lighter green satin around her waist. It was also Sari that vehemently put her foot down in refusal when Inara had tried to tuck a small dagger into it.

Inara wished she had armed herself anyway. Especially so whenever she felt Charr's eyes boring into her back during the evening.

"It would be easy to mistake you as a forest spirit tonight, Inara. If I walk with you in the moonlight tonight, will you cast a spell over me?"

"Samson, I swear you have the smoothest tongue in all of Grayville."

Inara's current dance partner, Samson Greenhaven, smiled with his usual boyish charm. He was three years her junior and well on his way to turning that boyish charm to a rogueish one. 'Put a few years on him..' Inara thought with a chuckle. 'The girls will either be fighting over him or running for the hills.'

"Well it's true. Charr's been eyeing you all night."

Inara rolled her own. "Be still my beating heart."

Samson grinned wider. "So has Emil."

"Dear spirits, I may swoon."

"And Aidan."

At that, Inara's head snapped up and she quickly glanced over her shoulder at the buffet table, where her companion was being cheerfully teased by the widow Brier. "You're imagining things, Samson." The younger boy neatly twirled Inara out and brought her back in perfect rhythm. "Might be... Then again, some things are plain as day, pretty lady."

Inara frowned, suddenly uncomfortable. "Such as?" His only reply was an ingenuous smile as the last strands of music faded away. She took her leave of Samson so he could badger Sari into partnering for the next reel and made her way over to tables still piled high with food and drink. Inara bypassed everything but a cupful of chilled fruit juice and moved to one of the quieter corners to enjoy it. She'd just taken a sip when Emil tossed the orange at Aidan.

The cup bobbled in her hands, juice sloshing over the rim and splattering drops on the ground, barely missing her calfskin slippers. It was impossible, simply not possible. Inara stared stupidly at the orange cradled in Aidan's palm then watched the widow check over her friend as though he were suddenly breaking out in spots. The awkward silence was filled by the next song, a lively reel of pipe and drum and fiddle. She'd caught the expression on Aidan's face and was compelled to leave her quiet corner and come to his side.

"Don't fret, Mrs. Brier, It takes more than projectile fruit to maim Aidan." She patted the widow on her shoulder. "Here now, let me get you something to drink." Well used to shepherding patients this way and that, Inara led the elderly lady to a nearby chair and pressed a cup of cider into her hands. When the widow was taken care of, Inara returned to Aidan. He was still clutching the orange. She arched an eyebrow, glanced meaningfully off into the shadows. "Care for a walk?"
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sun Jul 12, 2009 7:11 pm

"Uh," Aidan stammered as he looked back at the orange, "I, uh..." After a few moments, he tore his gaze away from the fruit and looked at Inara. In his daze, he barely noticed her beauty or the tenderness in her eyes. He dropped the fruit as his hands started shaking; he had seemed completely fine moments before, but now, he felt like a nervous wreck. He nodded frequently. "Sure," he answered at last, "Yeah, let's... walk." Even as he said it, he realized that he could not accomplish the act. His brain seemed to have shut down; as adrenaline pumped through his system, he knew he was fully capable of the hardiest physical acts, but he lacked the control to send the commands to his limbs.

Inara must have seen that; she took his elbow gently and led him away from the town square and away from the public eye, which was resting on him quite heavily. "I don't know what happened," he answered before she asked, "It was like I could see everything that was happening, all at once..." He paused again, then swallowed, even though his mouth was dry. "I don't know what happened," he repeated.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:00 pm

It was only by mere chance that Echryn had been looking in that direction when it happened. He had been busy drowning himself in his fifth mug of ale when he happened to see a boy raising a small orange into the air. What happened next had left him completely speechless, the boy's victim, the young fair-haired lad he had seen coming back from the woods, had moved with such speed that it was almost as if he sensed the orange's flight before it even took to the air. Impossible! He couldn't be... He was familiar with the stories of legendary warriors with peculiar abilities but he was sure that order had been wiped out years ago.

"That was fairly impressive," a woman's voice said behind him and Echryn turned to see the hooded figure from before.

Echryn's expression turned into a frown. "I hadn't expected to run into you here," he said quietly.

"I came because the prophecy called me," the woman answered, "You know the one."

Echryn glared at her. "I swore off service to you years ago. I swear, if you had a hand in me coming here...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

"I did not interfere because I did not need to. All is happening as it should. You and the wolf are to play an integral role in what is to come, you knew this from the start."

"What I know is that blindly following your orders cost me everything," he shouted at her, "I don't want your prophecy, Ashura! I've had enough of Gods and kings, now I just want to be left in peace."

"If only that were possible, Echryn, but the threads of fate cannot be cut and yours is intertwined with that boy. You must go to him now, he and the girl are in grave danger. The forces of the False King are moving, they've heard rumor that the Blades of Azuna have returned."

Echryn did not move and simply crossed his arms. "And if I refuse?"

"You won't," Ashura replied, "No matter the airs you put on you are not the rogue you pretend to be, Echryn. The Knight's Code burns deep within you, you will not doom that boy to death."

"Yeah, well we'll see about that," Echryn answered stubbornly then he glanced away momentarily as a sudden commotion caught his attention. Cassie was marching back towards him and several of the townsfolk had shied away from her in fear. The grizzled old swordsman let out a long, low sigh then turned back to Ashura only to find that the woman had disappeared.

"I still have faith in you, Echryn Rogue," Ashura's voice was carried to him on the wind and Echryn groaned inwardly.

Cassie stared up at him with a curious look in her eyes, an unspoken question left lingering in the air.

"I'm going to need my sword," he said to her and then he turned, heading back up the road towards the inn...

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:50 pm

Out of the bright lights now, she picked one of the main village roads at random as her eyes slowly adjusted to the sudden shift to shadows. At least the moon was full; it provided more than enough light to keep them safe so long as they stuck to the paths.

As they walked, the healer's daughter changed her hold on Aidan to make it seem less like she was supporting him and more like two friends just taking a short break from the revelry to get some fresh air. Inara was quiet, unsure of what to say that might put her friend at ease. She glanced at him in the moonlight, took some measure of comfort at the familiar lines of his profile.

"Perhaps it was something," Inara spoke up at last. "Or perhaps it was nothing. Has anything similar happened to you before?"
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Fri Apr 11, 2014 7:37 pm

Aidan shook his head. "Not that I can recall," he answered. His leg still ached as he limped down the path next to his friend. He tried not to lean on her; as close as they had always been, he still did not like showing weakness in front of her. Even though he knew she could see right through his ruse, he wanted to look strong; his father had always insisted that he be strong. But strength came in many forms, he knew. The strength to be honest with your friend was unlike the strength to kill a wolf, but both were strength, and both were admirable. He continued, "It was like... I got to see what Emil was doing, even though I was still talking to Mrs. Brier. Almost like I was in two places at once, watching him talk to Charr and then throw the orange at me, but also wa-- er, talking to Mrs. Brier, and able to react to what I was seeing."

He frowned, unhappy with his meager attempt at explanation. "It sounds weird when I say it out loud," he said, "but it was like time slowed down, so that I could watch the world from every angle." He shook his head, still not satisfied with his limited words. He patted Inara's hand, as if to say that everything was alright.

But as he felt his innards twist and roil, he knew that everything was far from alright. The moon, though shining brightly already, seemed to intensify, and deep-seated sense of dread drained the strength from his limbs. He squinted, trying to avoid the glare of the moon in his eyes. His heart pounded in his ears, as though his blood were a roaring river, drowning out every other sound. Taken off-guard, he leaned on Inara until the feeling passed.

Eventually, he looked up again. He could hear Inara, asking whether he was alright, and for a moment, he ignored her. The light in his eyes dimmed as the shadows prevailed over the path. He was able to breathe normally, only then realizing that he had been gasping before. As the cool evening air filled his nostrils, it brought with it the acrid scent of smoke. The festival was a delightful source of sound and smell, he mused. He breathed deeply, drawing it in, feeling the wind caress his face.

His face. He spun, looking back the way they had come - back to the festival. "Do you smell that?" he asked Inara.

"Smell what?" she asked. He heard the concern in her voice, and he knew he was acting strangely, but he could not shake the feeling that something terrible was happening.

"How can I smell the fire," he realized aloud, "when we're upwind of the dance?" He looked in the direction of the aroma, and his eyes, adjusting to the dark, glimpsed the flickering orange of firelight. Something was burning, at the north end of the village. The north end of the village, Aidan knew, where the house of his family stood; the north of the village, he knew, where his father had stayed for the evening of the festival. In his illness, the old man never wanted to be seen - he had to hide the weakness.

Maybe it was nothing... or maybe it was something. The sinking feeling in Aidan's gut turned to unadulterated fear. Running in spite of his leg, he took off toward his home.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:47 am

Frowning with confusion, Inara lifted her skirts off the ground and followed her friend. "Aiden, what's going on?" She worried at the pace he set. Even though it was slow enough she would outpace him at a brisk jog, it was still jarring his injured leg with every step. Then again, the expression on his face gave her more concern and a sinking feeling crawled through her own belly.

She followed his gaze as they headed north. And frowned more.

"Aiden, isn't that.."

Suddenly everything clicked in her head and she no longer question Aiden's pace or the wild look in his eyes. Before she realized it, Inara had lifted her skirts higher and took off running, out-distancing Aiden in a sprinting dash to get to the village's outskirt. Well before she reached it, she smelled the acrid stench of burning wood, felt the sting of it in her eyes.

And felt the heat wash over her face.

She'd seen wildfires before, had smelled the burning landscape, watched forest trees turn into towering infernos, and felt the primal fear of being trapped in front of the fire path. She'd also seen a barn go up in flames a few seasons ago from an oil lamp tipped over during a cold winter night. But Inara had never seen or felt the terror of watching a house burn to the ground. As she came up to it, she began shouting for Aiden's father and coughed when he lungs filled with heat and smoke. Rubbing her eyes as they blurred and teared, Inara at first didn't notice two hulking silhouettes peel away from the edge of the little house and head toward her.
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:20 pm

Aidan caught up to her, but did not slow down. He heard her calling for his father; the man's lungs would not be able to take this smoke for long, and he certainly could not call back. Digging deep within himself, Aidan found a reservoir of strength and energy. He felt enraptured by the flames and the billowing black fumes; he would not hold back, could not hold back, as he powered his way toward the house. Pounding his feet across the dirt in ignored agony, he charged for the door--

--only to be caught by Inara. The interruption broke up his trance, and the pain returned to his senses. His leg buckled beneath him. He clutched at it with a grimace and a cry, finding it swollen and tender, even through the bandages. He fell to the dirt, aching throughout--but the anguish in his leg was nothing next to the torment in his heart as he watched his father's house burn. The old man never went far, when he did leave the house; if he had escaped before the conflagration, he would be here. Where else would he have gone?

Aidan let go of his wounded limb with one hand and tried to pull himself closer to the house, as if he could save anyone in his state. Inara held him fast, and as sorrow poured from his eyes and sobs tore their way from his throat, he let her. Slowly, the intense heat in his chest, demanding that he do something--anything--to save his father faded, as reality set in. The intense heat of the blaze, though, remained, so Aidan let Inara move him further from the ruin. His skin felt hot to the touch, like it had absorbed some of that inferno; he felt it trickling into his heart, rekindling his anger. His mind was overwrought with emotions, but somewhere deep down, he knew that his father was not so careless. There was someone to blame for this. The ardor in his heart no longer blazed to save his father, but to seek vengeance.

As if he could find it readily, he began to cast about, searching for them. His vision blurred, glimmering with many colors. The sharp contrast between the fire and the night left him half-blind. But even so, he caught a glimpse of movement. He tried to focus on the subject, but it eluded him, as though it were always in the corner of his eye. He stretched out a hand, as if to snatch up the stranger, or maybe to warn Inara. His other hand felt out across the dirt, scrounging for a weapon. As the thing drew nearer, he saw finally that it was no man. His voice broken by the lump in his throat and the boulder weighing on his chest, he cried out the only question he could think of: "Why?"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Wed Apr 23, 2014 6:06 pm

The being unsheathed a blade made of pure black steel. The being and the blade alike appeared to meld together, absorbing the light around them, moving as a shadow amongst the flames. It raised its weapon in one hand preparing to strike and there was nothing Aidan nor Inara could do to prevent it from taking both their lives. The two companions watched in stunned horror as the blade fell. Time seemed to slow and a lifetime of memories flashed before them. Then, inches before delivering the final blow, something remarkable happened. There was a loud snarl and a bark as a wolf suddenly jumped out of nowhere and latched on to the being's sword arm, causing its stroke to miss. Before either Inara or Aidan could figure out what had happened there was another being by their side, a scraggly man with an unkempt beard wielding a magnificent sword.

"Get up," he ordered them, "Get up now!"

He forcefully pulled Aidan to his feet then urged him and Inara to run. "That way," he pointed with his sword, "Go now!"

"But--," Inara started to say.

"No 'but's," Echryn interrupted her, "Run!"

He shoved them both forward and followed behind them as they ran past the burning mess that had once been Aidan's home. They were near the woods when a second figure moved amongst the flames. It had descended upon them from out of nowhere. There was a flash of warning and then the sound of steel upon steel. Echryn fended off its first strike but then the monster was on top of him again swinging furiously with its sword.

"Run," Echryn shouted at the pair behind him as he battled the fiend, "Stop gawking and run!"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Fri May 02, 2014 11:35 am

Aidan glanced between the stranger and the shadow. He had seen the man in passing at the dance, but all Aidan knew about him was that he was a foreigner, that he was trying to save their lives--and that, somehow, he knew their lives would need saving. Aidan had just lost a lot--his home, his father, and all sense of normalcy. The chance to find out why held weight with him, and he knew that he could not give up that chance. In that moment of roiling emotions, anger and revenge and self-doubt, his own life had little value next to the thought of understanding why he had to suffer.

Whether it was heroism, anger, foolishness, or some combination thereof, he resolved not to obey the man's order. He hobbled to the treeline, where he quickly found a long branch of hard wood that resembled the staves he favored. He used it as a walking stick to return to the fight. Approaching the shadow from behind, he swung down toward the creature's "shoulders."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Fri May 02, 2014 2:04 pm

The blow struck the being in the back, staggering it and knocking it off balance. Echryn took advantage of its temporary weakness and knocked it to the ground before running it through with his sword. The creature squirmed a bit before its body began to dissolve into a dark, black mist. The mist coalesced into a large clump and then began moving along the ground away from the trio. Once it was out of sight Echryn turned angrily to Aidan.

"I told you to run, boy," he said, roughly grabbing him by the arm and shoving him in the direction of the woods. Aidan stumbled and nearly fell but somehow managed to keep his balance.

"What about the wolf," Inara piped as they followed Aidan into the woods.

"She'll be fine," Echryn assured them and the trio quickly made their way through the foilage away from the burning farmhouse.

It was some time before they finally stopped. Aidan couldn't tell how much distance they had covered but it felt like they had run forever especially since with every step he took his leg continued to protest painfully. Now, though, they had a moment of respite and Aidan gladly rested himself atop a fallen tree. He was still reeling over the loss of his father and everything he had known but he had questions for Echryn. Questions he needed answered before he would take another step.

"What were those things," he managed to say, barely able to contain his anger.

"They were the Kage, servants of the False King," Echryn told them, "They're beings of pure shadow whom according to legend cannot be killed."

"But that isn't true," Inara said, "We saw you kill one."

Echryn shook his head sadly. "You saw the mist flee from us. In a day the Kage will reform and continue its pursuit for the last descendant of the Blades of Azuna... You," he said, pointing to Aidan.

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Tue May 06, 2014 10:00 am

"Me?" Aidan echoed. He was incredulous. "I have no idea what you're talking about. What are the Blades of Azuna?"

"Not what," Echryn answered, "Who."

Aidan snapped, "Fine, then. Who are the Blades of Azuna?"

Echryn shook his head. "It's a long story, and we haven't the time." He turned to lead them farther from the burning cottage, Aidan's childhood home, and his father's corpse, probably still alight amid the flames.

Aidan would have none of it. This man knew something; he knew why Aidan's father was killed, why Aidan himself was threatened, and he refused to answer. Wounded or not, the boy would not allow it. He shouted, "Then make time!" He slammed his good foot down in front of the grizzled old warrior, shoving him back into place. Aidan was not weak, but Echryn had been well-trained; he grabbed the boy's wrists and wrenched them, bringing the young man to his knees.

"We may have slowed down one of them, but the other isn't held back. We have to move, now!" He released Aidan and began to lead them away.

Aidan climbed back to his feet, rubbing at his wrists. "Then talk while we walk," he said darkly. "Why did my father have to die, and what kind of justice is it that we walk away without giving him so much as a damn decent burial?"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Tue May 06, 2014 12:31 pm

"He's a noisy one, isn't he," a voice asked from behind them. All three turned to see a figure emerge from the woods, a young woman wearing a simple dress. That alone would have been suspicious enough if not for her long, silver hair and pointed elf-like ears.

"What took you so long," Echryn demanded, "I thought you could handle at least one."

"Someone had to cover your tracks," she said, stepping forward and fixing Aidan with a sharp stare. Aidan took a step backwards and nearly stumbled when he realized this strange woman was not looking at him through human eyes but rather through eyes that appeared to be more--feral. "This is the Blademaster, then? He doesn't look like much."

"He's just a boy," Echryn replied then he reached out and tugged the sleeve of her dress, "Where did you get this?"

"From someone who didn't need it anymore."

"Did anyone see you?"

"No," she answered, turning her gaze to him. "The village was burning after you left, the False King's men are in pursuit. At least a single legion from the looks of it. They won't be far behind so we had better run."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Starlight » Fri May 09, 2014 11:16 am

Inara had kept silent while the shock and rage bubbled like a cauldron about to overflow. It was one thing to witness the burning death of her companion' father. But to turn tail and run while the rest of the village lay vulnerable? The idea was hideous and a complete anathema to any sort of healer. To Inara, it was impossible.

"You must all be mad!" she shouted and stood her ground on the dark path. Her skin was smudged with ash, her once-beautiful festival gown now covered in grime and her hair nauseatingly of smoke. But with her shoulders held back and stubborn chin angled high, she looked a fierce as a general facing down an enemy.

"We can't just leave everyone! Aiden, those are our friends. My family! I am not going to leave them behind!"

Livid and shaking with adrenaline, she pointed a finger at the grizzled traveler. "Who's to say that you're not responsible for bringing those hideous things here? And how convenient that it was Aiden's house that burns first. Now you want him to wander off in the darkness with two strangers and on nothing but the faith of your word? We have no weapons, no gear, no clothing, no healing supplies."

She turned on her friend, incensed to see that he was wavering between following and staying. "What if those things were after them, Aiden? Not us. Not you."

"I will not leave my parents, my friends, to die while I run like a rabbit."
My horse's feet are as swift as rolling thunder,
He carries me away from all my fears;
And when the world threatens to fall asunder,
His mane is there to wipe away my tears.
~Bonnie Lewis

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Fri May 09, 2014 11:32 am

"Then go," Echryn said with a shrug, "He's the one that matters. So if you want to go off half-cocked in a vain attempt to rescue your family be my guest, but the boy stays with us."

"You--," Inara began and she took a menacing step towards him before she was suddenly cut off by the elf-like creature.

The woman didn't say anything to her but simply placed two fingers against Inara's forehead. Then the world turned dark and Inara crumpled, falling over into the strange woman's arms.

"What did you do to her," Aidan demanded.

"She's fine," the woman said simply.

Echryn sighed, "Cassie, you didn't have to do that."

"I did," she replied, "You know I did. We don't have time for this."

Then she turned to look at Aidan. "What about you? I could give you the same treatment but then we would have to leave the girl here. Echryn cannot carry the both of you."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Mon May 12, 2014 8:34 am

Aidan looked between the two strangers. Anger seethed beneath his hard expression, threatening to overflow. His father was dead, his home burned, and these two knew more than they were saying. They spoke in myths and half-truths, he supposed, tales of beings of pure shadow and other magical nonsense. His whole world was falling apart around him, but suddenly, none of that mattered quite as much: they had done something to Inara. His father was gone, but Inara was still here, and he was not about to let her be killed to satisfy his anger.

He thought about demanding they run on their own, that they leave him behind; he wanted nothing to do with all of this, and part of him still doubted that he could be the target of such a fierce attack. But on a deep, visceral level, he knew that was wishful thinking. His father's house had been the first to burn; when confronted, the monsters had pursued him above the others. He was wounded and unarmed, easily the least threatening, but he had been their first prey. Whatever else was true, whatever else these strangers knew, they were right about that - the monsters were coming after him, Aidan Conall, a no-name hunter's brat in a no-name town.

He set his jaw. He was out of options. Inara might hate him for it, but he knew what he had to do. "Echryn won't have to carry either of us," he said. He limped closer to the elf-girl and took Inara into his own arms. She was lithe and lightweight, which made her easy enough to carry; the added pounds of pressure on his wounded leg caused him to wince, but he fought through the pain. Resolve hardened his nerves and strengthened his limbs; he could not sprint, but he could keep a fair pace. His friend's red hair, looking like bronze in the dim light, fell across his arm and shoulder as he held her close.

The elf-girl had an expression of disdain. "You can't run like that," she said.

Aidan glared at her. "You don't touch her again," he said through gritted teeth. He looked at Echryn. "Either of you. Now where are we going?"

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Wed May 14, 2014 1:50 pm

Cassie shared a look with Echryn and he just shook his head. He knew what she was going to say without her even saying it but the boy had made up his mind and he wasn't going to push the issue. "South," he said finally in answer to Aidan's question, "Now let's move."

Echryn moved off to the front of the group while Cassie brought up the rear. Aidan struggled a bit with Inara's weight but to the boy's credit he managed to keep pace fairly well. Once they were out of the woods the going was easier. A long plain stretched out before them for as far as the eye could see and through this plane they headed east towards the mountains. Cassie would occasionally range out behind them to keep an eye out for any signs of pursuit but would find none. In that at least they were fortunate. By the time they stopped for the day the sun had already drifted down past the horizon. They took shelter in a small thicket they found in a valley at the foot of a hill.

Aidan graciously put Inara down and sat down next to her unconscious form. Cassie, meanwhile, went to stand next to Echryn and spoke to him in hushed tones. "Getting to the Vale is not going to be easy," she was saying, "The only road leading south runs right past the capitol."

Echryn nodded but said nothing. He had already reached the same conclusion. Instead he continued to watch the hilltops for any signs of life.

"And there's something else," she continued, "It's the girl."

At that Echryn finally turned to look at her. "What about her?"

"She has the gift, I felt it when I touched her. The well of power that dwells within her runs deeper than any I've felt."

Echryn frowned, that was not good news. It was rare to find a human capable of magic, even rarer still to find one Inara's age whose powers have not yet manifested. He turned to look back at the girl sleeping on the ground beside Aidan. "How long," he asked.

"A week, maybe less. It's hard to say," Cassie replied, "Her powers should have already been revealed to her, but perhaps there is something else at play here." She stopped to think about it a moment, averting her gaze from him. Echryn could tell when she was being indecisive, he could see it in her eyes. The girl hesitated before she spoke again, her tone sounding somewhat uncertain. "I could--instruct her," she said, "An early start now may help to minimize the damage later."

Echryn nodded. Generally speaking a skilled mage could easily maintain and control the power within him but all mages have to start somewhere and some start messier than most. The moment a mage's power manifests itself the sudden release of arcane energy is usually too much for the user to bear. There have been times when someone was hurt, caught up in an explosion or set on fire by accident. Most mages are discovered when they are young and begin instruction from an early age so when the time came for their powers to manifest the damage was minimal, but Inara grew up in a backwater village in the far north. Too far for any major institution to care and if what Cassie said about her power was true...

"Do it," he said finally, "but start tomorrow. Right now I need you to scout the hill sides and make sure we're not being followed."

Cassie nodded and Echryn turned and started to head over to where Aidan was seated. The boy watched him every step of the way, that same defiant look on his face that he wore since before they left the farm. Then he caught sight of Cassie loosening the strings of her dress and his eyes visibly widened when she discarded the garment.

"What is she doing?" He exclaimed, quickly looking away but a strange sound and a bright light drew his gaze back to the girl.

She was down on all fours now and her body was changing. Hair grew all over her arms and legs eventually covering her from head to toe while her nose lengthened into a snout as the rest of her body changed into that of a beast. When it was over a silver-gray wolf took the place of the girl and the animal looked back at him, fixing him with its pale blue eyes before running off through the thicket and up the hill out of sight. Echryn knelt down in front of Aidan and pulled his pack off his shoulders, reaching into the bag to grab a bit of kindling.

"Your friend should be waking up soon," he said, fetching some flint and tinder from the bag before setting about starting a small fire, "Now would be a good time to ask your questions, kid."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Archangel » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:40 pm

Aidan glowered. He doubted that he would get much meaningful from the other man. He thought about all the questions he wanted to ask: who were they? Who was he? Why did the girl call him a "Blademaster"? Who were the Blades of Azuna? Why did these "Kage" want to kill him? Why were they willing to slaughter an entire town to get at him? Who was the False King, and what did he want in all of this? What political power could possibly be interested in a nobody in a little town so far north that it struggled to feed itself?

Somehow, those questions seemed too personal. Echryn seemed to know vague ideas, general concepts, but when it came to Aidan's personal involvement, he seemed surprised. So Aidan decided to ask something he was sure that Echryn could answer: "Where are we going - really?" he said, "Not just 'south.' I want to know about the destination."

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Re: Legend of the Blademaster

Post by Pryde » Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:42 pm

Echryn sighed. He found the boy's attitude towards him quite annoying but he supposed that if their situations were reversed that he might feel the same. "We're going to a place called the Vale," he said, "The monks there have been training new Blademasters for centuries."

"You still haven't told me what that is or what it has to do with me," Aidan said, giving him a pointed look.

The older man had a spark going now and after blowing on it a few times he set a few twigs on the flame to burn. "That should be enough," he said to no one in particular, "Anymore than that and we'll be spotted, even in this thicket."

He stood and turned away from Aidan, taking several steps away from the boy until Aidan stopped him.

"You said you would give me answers."

Again he sighed, groaning inwardly to himself. "In the days before man's rise to power this land was nearly conquered by a demon king, a follower of the dark ways of Dra'Zul. Infused by the power of his god the demon king brought the world to its knees, destroying everything in his path. It seemed all was lost until the Goddess Azuna gifted to mankind a small fraction of her power, just enough to turn the tide. Thus was born the Blades of Azuna or Blademasters as they had come to be called. The Blademasters brought an end to the war by slaying the demon king though many of them were killed in the process. What few survived continued the traditions of the Blades, fostering new Blademasters as the centuries passed until the False King destroyed them all."

Aidan stared at him. "And what does this have to do with me?"

"I'm getting to that," Echryn assured him, "You see about three hundred years ago close to the start of the False King's reign...,"

"Wait a minute," Aidan interrupted, "Three hundred years? That's impossible."

"For a human," Echryn corrected him. "But the False King is one of the Fae, immortal like her," he added, gesturing to the discarded dress lying on the ground. "Why do you think they call him the False King? He is not of men yet none will dare stand against him."

He turned around then and lowered himself to the ground, sitting cross legged in front of Aidan. "Anyway," he continued, "about three hundred years ago it was prophesied that a Blade of Azuna would bring an end to the False King's reign. Fearing for his life the King had his men hunt down the Blades and kill every last one of them... All but one," he said, fixing the boy with an unwavering stare, "Your ancestors survived the slaughter and hid themselves away in obscurity. You, boy, are the prophesied warrior whom the False King fears, the one destined to end his life."

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